Renaissance Revisited: Singapore as a ‘Global City for the Arts’


Singapore is renowned as a global business and financial centre, an international hub of air and sea transport, and Asia’s leading convention city. In the new millennium, the government has envisioned a new role for the city‐state as a ‘Renaissance City’ and ‘Global City for the Arts’. This vision is premised on Singapore becoming an investment base for leading arts, cultural and entertainment enterprises in the region, the theatre hub of Southeast Asia, and an entertainment destination for tourists. This article examines the challenges and accomplishments in Singapore’s quest to be a Renaissance City. Drawing on literature on ‘global cities’ and concepts relating to ‘globalization’ and ‘localization’, it argues that the key challenge facing Singapore is how best to ‘go global’ and ‘stay local’ at the same time. Developing a Renaissance City entails a balancing act between globalizing local sensibilities on the one hand, while localizing global best‐practices on the other. This global‐local nexus can be approached in three ways: (1) by striking a balance between the economic and humanistic objectives of the arts; (2) by importing world‐class arts talents and exporting home‐grown skills; and (3) by globalizing local peculiarities in line with best practices from around the world. The need to balance global standards with local interests is not easily achieved, however, making Singapore’s ‘Global City for the Arts’ vision one of its most ambitious goals to date.